Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Holloway’s 16-point second half sparks UMass comeback against Fairleigh Dickinson

Minutemen squeak away with one-point win

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Holloway’s 16-point second half sparks UMass comeback against Fairleigh Dickinson

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

(Caroline O'Connor/Daily Collegian)

By Thomas Johnston, Assistant Sports Editor

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Massachusetts men’s basketball coach Matt McCall knew Friday’s matchup against Fairleigh Dickinson was set up as a trap game for his squad. The Minutemen (7-6) hadn’t played in over a week, and the game sat between a tough Temple loss and a matchup against Southeastern Conference’s Georgia.

Early on, it looked as though UMass didn’t come to play. The Knights (5-6) opened the game red hot offensively, shooting 54.5 percent in the first half and making six of their nine three-point attempts.

Offensively, the Minutemen struggled to get any consistent rhythm, going 13-for-30 in the first 20 minutes of action.

It looked like UMass was in for another disappointing loss at home when the offense finally found its footing in the second half. Fairleigh Dickinson was playing an aggressive, trapping defense, stepping up and leaving the baseline wide open.

The Minutemen were able to penetrate the defense and find big man Rashaan Holloway standing by himself on the block, leading to three dunks on three straight possessions to bring UMass back in the game, ultimately paving the way for an 85-84 victory.

“When we run our offense and we execute it perfectly, it can end in dunks for everybody,” Holloway said. “Keon (Clergeot) came down and dunked one because we executed our offense. Jon (Laurent) comes down in transition and dunks a couple. All of our offense creates easy layups so if we run it to perfection, we can get dunks every time.”

The easy dunks came when the defense was fixated on Luwane Pipkins coming off a pick and roll, as the Knights made it a focus to not let the Minutemen’s leading scorer beat them.

“[Pipkins can see that],” McCall said when asked about Holloway being wide open at the rim. “We kept putting Pipkins in spread pick and rolls, he and Keon, and they kept making the right play. You get so consumed with Luwane coming off the pick and roll, you forget about the roll guy. That happened a couple times.”

Holloway was used sparingly in the first half, playing just four minutes and picking up three fouls. His impact wasn’t felt until the second half, where he scored 16 of his 18 points, finishing the game a perfect 7-for-7 from the field.

“I thought he was really bad in the first half,” McCall said. “He picked up three fouls, he was out of position. I thought he settled in there. I thought he should have had 24 or 25 [points] tonight, he missed some bunnies.”

Holloway had some extra motivation in this game, as his younger brother, Mike, starts at center for Fairleigh Dickinson. The younger Holloway had a big game himself, scoring 15 points and grabbing three rebounds, with 13 of the points coming in the first half.

With the win, it will be Rashaan who can go home for the holidays with the family bragging rights.

“I was in foul trouble, I thought I was in trouble,” Holloway said. “He’s a good basketball player, he’s always been a good basketball player. He’s smart, he can pass, he can dribble, he can create for his players. It was good to see him do well, but I had to get over the three fouls and come back in the second half and catch a W. That’s all we were worried about.”

“Big brother had to be the big brother today,” Laurent added after.

The problem for Holloway has been keeping him on the court, and tonight McCall felt he couldn’t have him out there on the defensive end. When he had the chance to sub the big man out for a defensive series in the second half.

While Holloway was unstoppable on the offensive end, he won’t be able to reach his full potential until he can stay on the court for extended periods of time and be able to make a difference on the defensive end of the floor.

Thomas Johnston can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @TJ__Johnston.

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